Lost: Identity

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Mark, 11 Weeks and 4 Days

Mark, 11 Weeks and 4 Days

When I glance at my reflection in the mirror, I see a woman, complete with boobs and a butt. When I hear myself talk in English, I detect a hint of a French accent in my voice; yet my French sounds strange to native speakers: I’m an immigrant, a French and a Canadian. When my Blackberry beeps, I’m a translator, editor or writer—depending on the assignment. When I’m with Feng, I’m a partner, a friend, a wife. When I hear Mark cry or when he grips my finger and won’t let go, it stirs something deep inside me and I realize that I’m a mother, albeit a new one.

I have too many distinct identities these days. It’s tough to reconcile them all. I feel like I lost myself in the process of trying.

During the nine months of pregnancy, my changing body was foreign to me. I didn’t label myself as “ugly” or “pretty” but I found it hard to look at myself naked in the mirror—after a shower, I would reach for a towel right away and wrap myself into it as if my sore breasts and my growing belly weren’t there.

The fact that I felt treated as a baby incubator didn’t help either. I was no longer a woman, I was a pregnant woman. That two-syllable word changed everything—at least the way I was seeing myself and the way the rest of the world was treating me, sometime with caution, sometime with condescension.

I tried to survive and to adapt to these changes. I made concessions and I worked on baking that baby the best I could. I also tried to live a normal life: I didn’t give up yoga, traveling or vegetarian sushi.

From a physical point of view, I had it easy. Like my ob-gyn said, “your body was made to have children.” From a psychological point of view, it was another story. I was borderline depressed at times even though I still can’t pinpoint what triggered that sense of loss of control and why I found being pregnant so challenging. It’s one of these things I can’t explain.

I’m no longer pregnant (yay!) and I’m embracing motherhood. Even though it still feels new, unreal and scary, I’m happy to be Mark’s mother.

But I don’t want to trade the multifaceted identities it took me 29 years to build for a one-size-fits-all “mother” label. I want to add that motherhood status to my personal identity because I am still an individual, with hopes and dreams—for Mark, of course, but for Feng and I and for myself as well.

To me, motherhood is part of a purpose but not my ultimate goal in life.

That’s it. I said it. Sounds selfish? Maybe. These days, anything sends me on a guilt trip anyway.

It’s challenging. Being a new mother is time-consuming and my world does revolve around Mark these days. I do translations with Mark in my arms, I bottle feed between two assignments while grabbing a bite for myself, and I feel like throwing a party whenever I get to wear “outside clothes”, i.e. my regular jeans and t-shirt instead of a milk-stained sweater and sweat pants. I canceled so many coffee meeting with my friends because I was on “mommy duty” that I’m surprise we still bother to try to hook up. And most days I’m so exhausted that checking what’s going on in the world, doing something nice for myself, hugging Feng or simply day dream is beyond me.

Maybe I’m too stubborn. Maybe I shouldn’t cling to my other identities. Maybe I should stop working, stop trying to meet friends, stop trying to be a woman and embrace motherhood fully, whatever that means.

But that wouldn’t be “me”, whoever “me” is these days. And I don’t think I would be doing Mark a favour either—I don’t want to put all my hopes on him, that’s too much pressure for a kid. I’m also happier when I feel complete and that includes writing, working, traveling, exercising, eating chocolate, wearing non-politically correct t-shirts and browsing silly websites.

I believe in balance. I don’t think I can have it all but I will try.

Meanwhile, I think I’ll just focus on being Juliette, in good and in bad.

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

25 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing this, Juliette. I don’t have kids, but I’m pretty sure that if I ever do become a mother, I’ll be feeling a lot of the things that you described here. And, speaking with absolutely no experience whatsoever, I think you’re right to see motherhood as another (very important) layer in your identity, rather than the sum total of who you are. Of course right now you need to devote a huge amount of time to baby Mark, but in ten, twenty, thirty years time, your role will have changed enormously and you’ll still be a person in your own right, just as much as he will be.

    It’s amazing to have so many different, interesting identities in your life – don’t feel guilty about it!

  2. You would so get along with my sister. She also has strong feelings about the topic of “female purpose”; I remember her telling me how she got into an argument with classmates in grade school (!) when they were telling her how they all dreamed about becoming a mother when they got older, how that would be nice, how nothing beats being a mother, and my sister just couldn’t let that go without saying something to the contrary.

  3. I fully agree with your approach. Although I’m still far from being a mother, I have a few friends that have become moms recently and have the feeling that some of them have given up their other identities – they have stopped having any other ambition besides for being a mom. I hope its only temporary!

  4. This is a BEAUTIFUL and so perfectly worded post. You’re not selfish at all – you are so incredibly wise. So many of us get lost in that “mother” label and then what happens when the kids grow up and don’t need you so much anymore? What are you then? That’s when women fall apart and realize they invested everything they had in their child and that without them, they’re nothing… It’s unhealthy and unbalanced.

    You’re a great mother – but it’s just one facet of your identity. You are ahead of the pack for realizing this so early on.

    • Thank you Tracy! I don’t want to freak you out but women like you are a huge inspiration to me. Your two boys are great kids and you seem to have it all figured out… plus I love your multicultural family!

  5. I think it is all a balance and at first more attention, sort of like learning.. I think in time you will get all of your time back.. It does get different, that’s what I know for sure.. Enjoy the “tiny” time of mark now, they get bigger too fast! 🙂

  6. Hi Zhu,
    Even through I can’t relate to the Mother facet of role models, a lot of what you say is similar to myself.
    Though I want to think of myself as above the labels of society the truth is that when we are outside we are always in comparison. I have learned to take some of the things said, about me,good and bad, gently push them aside.

    I am above all, me.
    Bises.

    P.S. What a creative photo!!

    • That’s true, society is quick to label people, as women, girls, men, father, mother, boys, single, gay, etc. But there is always a person behind the label!

  7. Yay…you are no longer pregnant 🙂 I shared your joy of ‘unloading’ as I can understand temporary ‘inconvenience’. Hmmm…sometimes I do ‘missed’ it as I was pampered throughout my pregnancy 🙂

    Yes, all Mothers are superwomen!!!! Best of luck 😀

  8. Mark is very young and need most of your attention at the moment, maybe that’s why your new “mother facet” is taking over the other facets of yours. But I don’t doubt that this will rebalance itself very soon. As you said, it took you 29 years to become what you are and there’s simply no way you’re going to stop to be… yourself?
    By the way, “mother” seems more like a job / activity than a ‘title’. Just like you translate things in your own way, you’re going to be a mother in your own way. You won’t be lost in the process.
    Tace care 🙂

  9. I think you’re smart for doing motherhood your way and recognizing what you need. A lot of my friends have kids and the ones that are the happiest and have the happiest kids are the ones that have found a balance of being a mom and being them. It’s not selfish, it’s smart.

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